Monday, May 20, 2013

Screen time in the TNO household - How much TV does a SLP allow her kids to watch?

If you missed yesterday's post, I briefly hit on the general guidelines of television use and screen time, and discussed a few reasons why those recommendations are so.  You can check out that post here if you haven't seen it and would like more information.

Today I'll pick right back up where we left off, which leads us to where I happen to stand on screen time in our household.

As with most other things in life, I stand on the side of moderation.  My children most definitely have screen time and I'm not afraid to admit that, whether it be watching television, playing on the computer, or playing on my husband's iPad, but it is at a level comfortable to our family.  I've had a few specific reader questions about when we began and how much we allow, so I'll go into that here.

"So when did you start allowing television?"

We began allowing Little Man to watch television prior to the age of two.  Right after he was born and during the early stages of his life, I watched a lot of television while nursing.  At that point, he was focused on what he was doing and I had something to do while I was stuck on the couch for hours every day.  However, when Little Man became more aware, my television time while he was awake stopped.  Instead, we began to do all the things that little babes do - tummy time, smiling and 'chatting' back and forth, giving him age appropriate toys to encourage grasping, etc.

For quite some time, he didn't have any television time or any other screen time at all, minus a few days when DH just had to watch a specific football game during Little Man's awake time.  For months, this is just how it was.  If I was watching a show and Little Man woke from a nap?  TV was turned off.

As he began to get older and older, I did notice that he was no longer super agreeable (like most toddlers aren't) to me filing his nails once or twice per week.  To keep him distracted enough for me to file his nails, I began allowing him about a half hour of television per week with a show of my choosing {more on that tomorrow}.  It was a great solution as I got what I needed done, he was happy, and afterward he wasn't running around scratching everything in sight with unkempt nails.

At that point in time I still refrained from having anything on in the background while he was awake {Dr. Oz, I miss you!} and we went on our happy little way playing.  It wasn't until he became around the age of two after Little Lady was born that we started allowing Little Man more screen time.

There are several reasons why Little Man gets a bit more screen time now than he did before, the first being that he can ask for it.  He doesn't always get what he asks for, and his screen time is still significantly limited, but he knows that he likes to watch and he will request certain shows at times.

The second main reason is that - like ANY mom of more than one babe - there are times in which I cannot be physically or mentally present for his every need.  Especially when some of those needs are playing trains "right now, Mama, RIGHT NOW!" when I'm trying to nurse Little Lady, change her diaper, or get her down to sleep for a nap.  I try not to use screen time too often as a fix, because I believe he needs to learn patience and play independently, but there are days where a little bit of a quality show or iPad time gets us me through a task and then I can be 100% present and play trains until the cows come home.

Checkin' out DH's computer
There are also some days in which I realize that due to all the hustle and bustle of our day, playing with Little Man, and keeping our house from looking like a toy store exploded - not to mention laundry or dishes - that I'll realize I've barely looked into Little Lady's eyes while she happily snuggles into the sling as I run around. Sometimes if I'm having that kind of a day and Little Man has had a ton of my attention I'll play something for him in order for me to give Little Lady some one on one time where I'm mostly focused on playing with her.

And honestly- as both a speech pathologist and a mother, I see nothing wrong with that.  Again, moderation is key.

"But how much time do you allow him to watch television or play on the iPad?"

Each and every weekday - barring things like appointments or work - Little Man FaceTimes with my mom during breakfast.  Since my parents live too far away to see them as often as I'd like, Little Man gets to chat with his Grammy (and Grampy depending on what time we're up) while he eats.  It's one of his favorite things of the day, because he gets to watch his Grammy make her breakfast, she will eat with him, and then she will read him several books after he is finished.  {This isn't something I really consider to be counted in his "screen time", but since it technically is him watching my phone, I've added it.}  If Little Man happens to want to call Grammy later in the day to tell her something or "play" for a little while longer, I always call, no matter if he's already seen her that morning.  This usually happens at least one or two times per week as well.

Some days, that is the extent of his screen time.  We've been taking a walk every day with the weather becoming warmer to get through the "witching hour" of tired baby times two right before dinner, and if there are any other trips to be made that day after meals, naps, and tot school then there really isn't any time.

Other days, Little Man can have a bit more television or iPad time, but I really do try to limit how long and how much.  If he has played on the iPad a bunch one day, then I don't have the TV on at all that day and vice versa.  Most times I cap it at 30 minutes to an hour in one day, but if we're having a no-good, very bad, terrible type of day, he is sick, or we're watching something great for learning when I'm able to watch as well to teach during - very occasionally he can watch up to an hour and a half in one day.

{As mentioned above, I'll get to what he is watching and how I'm teaching him while he's watching later on in the week!}

"So then what about Little Lady?  Is she watching TV?"

For the past few months, Little Lady was in the brand new baby stage - where she wasn't quite aware of much going on around her needs.  But the past month or so, she has been really become more actively engaged in her environment.  There are some times when Little Man has the television on when she can hear it, but I try very hard to either wear her at that time or position her so she isn't watching with him.  I don't make him wait until she naps, but I'm cognizant of my interactions with her while he is watching.

There is never a time though, at her developmental stage, where I would put her down in front of the TV on purpose for her to watch.  There just isn't anything that she'd get out of it at this point, and it's much better if I can take a few minutes during that time to get on her level and interact with her.  If it gets to that point in the future where she can move to see the television and watch something before I think it's developmentally appropriate for her - then I will definitely begin to further limit Little Man's screen time or only allow it when Little Lady is napping.

These are the basic guidelines I use in our home when I'm parenting our kids.  When DH is home, I'm not really sure how he uses the television or how much screen time Little Man gets.  As with many aspects of parenting, I try to realize that my style may be very different than his.  What works for me may not work for him, and that's okay.  He gets to parent how he wants to when I'm at work and he's alone with the kids just as I do when the roles are reversed.  It works for us, and we're pretty happy with our current systems.

In my next post, I'll chat a little more about just which shows I'm loving for our toddler - followed by the Meh, it's okay type of shows and the Heck no, not in my house! type of shows.  Tune back in to hear more!

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  1. Jayne thank you so much for these posts. I struggle with how much screen time is appropriate for my daughter and I appreciate your perspective. I can't wait to hear your recommendations. I hope Curious George makes the cut for "good" shows, b/c Lillian would never forgive me if I took away her George :).

    1. Thank YOU! :) I do have Curious George on my list- you'll have to see where it ends up ! :)

  2. Such an interesting topic and one I struggle with too. I may have commented somewhere on your blog before about the book "Into the Minds of Babes" that I recently finished and is about toddlers and TV - but I just love how research-oriented it is and how moderately the author presents the subject. If you are interested you might want to take a look (or maybe you already have given your background!). After a recent virus in our house, Henry definitely got more TV while sick and I have noticed this is the first time after him getting better that he continues to ask for TV - which I am not thrilled about. Right now we are getting back to his "usual" screen time intake which is a 10 minute Thomas segment before we read before bedtime. I am much happier with that!!

    1. I haven't read that- I'll have to check it out!


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